It will come eventually to soccer – to dribbling and passing, to slide tackles and goals. The team will be on the field, not whole, but together.
Mike Weber doesn't know when that will happen. It's day-by-day for now.
But he knows the Pilgrim girls’ soccer team will be together.
It's where they've been all week, since two members of the team, Bella DiPalma and Elanna Zuller, died in a car crash late Wednesday night.
Weber, the head coach, got the call at 2:30 a.m. last Thursday. He was in New Jersey, visiting his daughter and her new baby. He drove back Friday and found his team, together.
They planned a candlelight vigil, together. They attended the services, together. Now they will try to pick up the pieces, together.
Sports have a way of mirroring life, heartbreak happening on a field, a team coming together in a huddle.
This was heartbreak – real, terrible heartbreak.
And this, now, is a team.
When Weber got back to Warwick, he found his players already planning Saturday’s candlelight vigil.
“They were together,” Weber said. “They were working on everything for the vigil and they did it all themselves. No parents or teachers – they wanted to do it themselves.”
Asked what that says about them, Weber paused.
“It says they love them,” he said.
That love has carried them through. While the families deal with unimaginable grief, the Pilgrim community has pulled together – with a soccer team at the center. They've been with each other non-stop. They attended the funerals and the wakes as a team. They're leaning on each other.
“I can’t say enough about them as people,” he said. “Their character and the strength and courage they’ve shown is incredible. I’m extremely proud of them.”
Teams talk about a sense of family, the chemistry that keeps them together. The Patriots have had it all along. Many grew up together, playing in the same soccer leagues, going to elementary school together. Some have known each other since they were 4 or 5 years old.
“They’ve always been a close-knit group,” Weber said.
The team has taken things one day at a time. Its first two games have been postponed. Weber was hoping to practice Wednesday. The Pats could potentially open the season on Tuesday, if they're ready.
Weber won't rush them.
"It’s not going to be easy," he said. "They’re going to have to hold on to each other and draw strength from each other. Every game is going to be difficult."
But getting back to soccer, Weber said, is what DiPalma and Zuller would have wanted.
“They both loved to play, and these girls love to play,” he said.
Soccer may seem trivial, but in at least one sense, it won’t be.
The Patriots will be together.
We’ll be rooting for them.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.